Pairing: it's pretty much nonexistent right now, but eventual Sawyer/Jack
Rating: PG-13 for language & violence
Warning: Character death
Disclaimer: I have no right to profit from any of this.
Summary: When Sayid and Jack set off into the jungle alone, Sawyer senses something's amiss and follows them.
Note: Set after Exodus, but ignoring most season 2 spoilers.
Sawyer swore under his breath as another tree branch flicked him right in the face. He would have been swearing at full volume, but something was telling him to be quiet right now. Sneaky, even. It wasn’t working. For someone who had been endowed with his fair share of sneakiness back in the real world, he seemed to be making a hell of a lot of noise at the moment.
“Dammit,” he whispered when he tried to take a step and realized his boot was tied down. Caught in a rustling mess of old vines, his feet made a dry sound like a pile of cheap plastic bags rubbing against each other whenever he tried to move.
He stopped for a second and strained to hear the two sets of footsteps he was following. Craned his neck, as if that could help him hear better, and was rewarded with a brief, burning lick of pain in his barely-healed left shoulder. Wincing, he rubbed the still-tender spot where Jack had removed the bullet and tried not to let thoughts distract him into making more noise.
For a while, he heard nothing, as if the two had sensed him listening and stopped as well. Then he heard a voice further off to the right than he thought it should have been. The words were just an indecipherable lump of sound, but the intonation was Jack’s, clear and a bit brassy. Gingerly he lifted first one foot and then the other from the crackling tangle of vines and began the pursuit again, the vague feeling of dread settling in his stomach, now familiar.
He had no idea why he was following them. Just a feeling, just… something about today. He wasn’t sure. Sayid had said he had something to show Jack. Big fucking deal, Sayid always had something to show Jack. But there was something, something jittery and bright and familiar just below the surface of Sayid’s skin, that Sawyer felt maybe he was the only one to sense.
The caves had been damn near overflowing with people, carrying fish, stacking wood, filling water bottles, taking mid-morning naps. He’d tried to catch the eye of a few nearby cave dwellers, to confirm that there indeed had been something strange about the way Sayid was carrying himself. Something odd about his very posture. But instead he’d watched as life droned on as usual. Then, finally, Sun met his gaze and frowned, looking at first concerned and then pouty. When pouty turned to comical he realized she was mirroring his own facial expression, and normally he would have at least told her half-heartedly to go play in her sandbox. But today he had other things on his mind. So he’d grabbed his pack and started tailing Sayid and Jack.
And now they were leading him out into the middle of fucking nowhere, and he was probably acting like a paranoid freak over nothing, and what better to breed even more paranoia than to end up in a completely strange part of the jungle with only a vague idea of how to get back to camp?
He wasn’t afraid. No, Sawyer went straight from slightly antsy to pissed the fuck off and he’d crossed that line a few miles back. What the hell was he thinking would happen, anyway? He couldn’t even imagine what was making his guts feel like he’d swallowed a shot put and chased it with a handful of iron shavings. There was just… something.
It was a something that Sawyer knew, that was the problem. A something he’d been close to before. It had whispered to him in the jungle once, whispered his name, whispered his secrets back at him like a curse. A presence at once menacing and seductive. He’d been trying since then to convince himself he’d imagined the whole thing. Clung to the idea of temporary insanity like it was something to be proud of, relished even. And then, out there on the water… well, not too coherent then, either, was he? Hallucinating left and right, that was all there was to it.
Except it wasn’t. And Sayid had heard the whispers too. And this morning, maybe, just maybe it hadn’t been that twitchy look in Sayid’s eye that had first alarmed him. And maybe it hadn’t been his awkward, overeager movements. But a certain cadence in his voice. A lilt that, although perfect in diction and flawlessly couched in the man’s own particular accent, had perhaps been just a little familiar.
Or maybe he really was just going crazy. It was as likely a scenario as he could come up with, because it explained not only what it was that had led him out here in the first place, but also why he suddenly gave a shit. OK, so he hadn’t exactly been keeping up his standard role as island outcast lately. Getting your ass shot in the middle of the ocean while trying unwisely, not to mention unsuccessfully, to rescue a kidnapped kid and then almost dying from god knows what kind of medieval fever had a way of messing with your street cred.
The island dwellers seemed to find him more approachable now. He hadn’t changed his surly behaviour any, as far as he could tell, but now they all seemed to treat it like any old character trait, and instead of steering clear of him they just rolled their eyes when he told them to go fuck themselves. He hadn’t bothered getting into any fights lately, maybe that was the problem. But his shoulder was still healing, and besides, there just hadn’t been any good excuses for fighting. Not even the little British runt’s frantic guitar playing got on his nerves enough to warrant an actual ass-whooping. The threat of one, maybe.
Still, it wasn’t so much that they were tolerating him. It was that somehow, without really trying, or hell, without saying so much as a friendly word to any of them, he’d ended up a part of their merry band of adventurers. That was what had changed; that was what was leading him out here. Something was off, and it had something to do with Sayid, and Sayid was a part of the group, and Sawyer’s instincts were telling him to watch out for the group.
It had nothing to do with Jack. Nothing at all, except that Jack was also a part of the group. Hell, Jack was the vital core of the group, and if something was about to happen, then it would probably be best if that something didn’t happen to Jack. It would be better for all of them if he kept Jack safe. And besides, Sawyer owed him big time for saving his hide.
If he didn’t remember a whole lot about making it back to shore, he remembered even less about his time in the infirmary. It still rattled him, this missing block of time. Eight days’ worth of time, and all he had to show for it were these glimpses, these moments of Jack. Jack, talking him through the pain with near-incoherent one-sided conversation while he dug the bullet out of his shoulder. Jack’s cool hands on his chest and neck, trembling slightly from exhaustion but so much less clinical than he’d imagined they would be. Tender, even. Jack sitting not quite asleep against the cave wall with his eyes closed and his jaw clenched. Jack calling him a hillbilly bastard while running something cold and wet over his face. That never ending stream of words from Jack’s mouth, sometimes so absurd he thought he’d dreamed them. That was what had kept him tethered to this place.
Yeah, he owed a lot to Jack. So of course, he’d barely been able to look him in the eye lately. Expressing his thanks ranked a definite second in the great list of things that Sawyer just didn’t do, after apologizing. Strangely, traipsing into the jungle after a hunch was probably pretty high on that list as well, but he wasn’t going to let himself dwell on that right now.
He almost didn’t hear Jack and Sayid come to a stop up ahead, and nearly blew his cover just by wandering out into the clearing they were occupying. Luckily, he caught a glimpse of them through a thick mess of a leaves and remembered not to let himself be seen. Crouching down, he was able to peer at them from under the branches of a particularly large and low tree. They were both standing; he could only see their lower halves as Jack’s fidgeted in expectation and Sayid’s stood stoically nearby.
“What is it, what’s here? What did you find?”
The Doc was slightly reminiscent of a Jack Russell terrier at the moment, reacting to Sayid’s calm demeanour by rambling nervously. The kid’s disappearance had brought Jack to a new level of self-loathing and blame-shouldering. A frantic sort of skittishness was starting to show through the cracks. Watching him now, Sawyer wasn’t sure Jack had slept, actually slept, since the survivors from the raft had returned. He could read Jack’s exhaustion as easily as reading a book, even without seeing his face. Every step was a half-stumble, as if the ground was meeting him halfway unexpectedly every time he put his foot down. His knees seemed to wobble just from standing in place. And his hands… they always had the look of having just dropped something.
“I think you know very well what we set out to find this morning.”
There it was again, and this time there was no mistaking it. Sayid’s voice, but wrapped in something else. Jack must have sensed it too, or maybe he just wasn’t used to getting a vague answer from someone who was usually so precise, because his fidgeting stopped and he turned to fully face the other man across the clearing.
“What are you talking about?”
“I saw you.”
“I saw you. Here. With the boy.”
Sawyer could bet the expression on Jack’s face matched his to a tee. A bewildered, dazed kind of look. Jack hadn’t left the caves in weeks. Sawyer knew because he’d seen him every day, at first in close proximity as Jack tended to him, and then peripherally while Jack held down the camp, orchestrated various search parties and consulted with Locke over his hatch-related operations.
“Sayid, what is this? What boy?” Jack overcame his stunned silence long enough to stammer. He knew very well what boy, Sawyer thought, but it was better not to say his name.
Sayid said nothing and stepped closer to Jack. Both of them now were off to Sawyer’s right. Sayid’s back was to him, partially eclipsing his view of Jack’s legs.
“What are you saying?” Jack said.
Sawyer noticed an unnatural bulge in the back of Sayid’s shirt, just before the man stepped even closer to Jack and spoke again.
“Yesterday, a few minutes before sunset. I saw you in this clearing with the abducted child.” Sayid’s tone was calm, almost absent.
“Do not lie to me, Jack.”
Sayid’s calm voice was beginning to develop a sharp, nasty edge.
Sawyer didn’t want to doubt Jack, but his mind reeled just the same as he tried to think specifically of the previous evening. All their days on the island blended together in his memory. But then he remembered a specific instance that fit the bill. Yesterday he’d glanced across the main cave at Jack, where he sat with Hurley discussing the possible location of the island’s radio tower as they pored over one of the French lunatic’s hand-drawn maps. He remembered the filtered red glow of sunlight through paper-thin leaves, coming in low through the cave entrance, causing Jack to squint.
“I’m not lying,” Jack said, that suppressed, scared tone of a man talking to buy himself some time while frantically trying to figure out what to do next. “I’ve never been here before.”
As Sawyer watched, Sayid reached behind him and closed his hand around the lump that was tucked under his black shirt. Only then, much too late, did Sawyer fully realize what exactly the lump was.
Sayid quickly pulled the gun out and pointed it at Jack. Sawyer held his breath and began to inch his way closer, staying low to the ground. It looked like his hunch was playing out. Now what the fuck was he going to do?
“I saw you with my own eyes!” Sayid said as Jack held his hands out to his sides in a gesture of cooperation. “A group of people, here in this clearing. You among them, and the boy!”
“Sayid,” Jack said, and Sawyer could hear the fear and confusion in his voice. “Listen to me, please. I’m not sure what it is you saw, but I was at the caves yesterday. I have never been to this place before.”
“It’s this island. It makes you see things. I know…”
Jack gulped, beads of sweat rolling down his face, a few dripping from his earlobes. Sawyer could see him now, unobstructed, but Jack hadn’t yet spotted him. He abandoned the tree he’d been hiding behind and began to move slowly into the clearing.
Sayid took another step towards Jack. There were maybe ten feet apart now. A brief shudder went through him and again Sawyer was struck with the impression of something shimmering just below the skin.
“This has nothing to do with the island, and you are well aware of it,” Sayid said angrily, back in control. “It all was a sham from the beginning. A trick.”
Jack closed his eyes, and Sawyer silently cursed him. How the hell was he supposed to rescue the good doctor without him knowing he was there? Summoning a childish inclination to will events into happening, he imagined his thoughts travelling through the morning air and seeping into Jack’s head.
Open your eyes, Doc. Open your goddamn eyes and look at me.
Hell, he was concentrating so hard he was giving himself a headache, but still Jack’s eyes stayed closed.
“Sayid… the island… I understand, okay? It made me see my father. My father’s dead… he died in Sydney. But he was here. He was so close I could have touched him. Sayid, please.”
Sawyer took another long slow step towards the two of them, keeping up his attempt at ESP, like a chant inside his head. Look at me, look at me, look at me. I’m right fucking here.
Sayid’s hand was trembling strangely; he had to use the other to steady his aim.
“There are no strange forces at work here,” he said resolutely. “Only corrupt people. Yourself among them. Now tell me the truth. Where is the boy?”
Sawyer stopped. He didn’t think he could get any closer without Sayid sensing his presence. Actually, he was surprised he’d gotten this far and was still alive. Still crouched down, out in the open, he now took a deep, quiet breath and closed his own eyes, concentrating on sending Jack his silent message.
Open your eyes. Look at me, open your eyes, goddammit. I’m right here. Open your eyes, come on, Jackass, open your eyes and just look at me. Now. Look at me now. I’m here. I am fucking here to save your fucking ass, Jack.
As if just Sawyer thinking his name had done it, when he opened his eyes again Jack was looking directly at him, the expression on his face an unchanged mask of dread.
“I don’t know,” Jack said, his eyes flickering back to Sayid’s face. “Sayid, why bring me out here?”
“To uncover the truth,” Sayid repeated as if the answer was evident.
“OK. OK. But if… if you’re accusing me of… whatever it is you think I’ve done. Shouldn’t the others hear about it too?”
“The others could be involved. The whole camp might be in on it. I couldn’t risk being outnumbered.”
Jack’s eyes met Sawyer’s again and Sawyer took it as a cue, straightening slowly and bracing for what he knew he had to do next. He realized briefly that this was the first time they’d made eye contact since the whole Jack-saving-his-life thing, but quickly chased that thought out of his mind.
“What about Michael? He can’t be in on it. Shouldn’t he have a say in what happens to me?”
Sayid seemed shaken momentarily by this new question. He breathed in, as though about to reply, then paused again. When he spoke his voice was low and steady.
“That, Jack, sounded suspiciously like an admission of guilt.”
Jack blinked quickly, as though sweat were stinging his eyes.
“Sayid, please. Don’t do this. You’re not thinking straight.”
Sawyer took a long step forward, never breaking eye contact with the Doc.
“No, I’m thinking clearly. Perhaps for the first time,” Sayid said coldly.
He raised the gun a bit, and planted his feet firmly into the ground. Sawyer broke into a run behind him, and collided with his legs in a textbook football tackle just as the gun let out a loud crack. Sawyer couldn’t tell if the shot had come before or after he’d brought Sayid down, and for a moment he didn’t want to know. But then Jack was there, trying to wrestle the gun away from Sayid’s hand, pinning his arm down with his whole body and twisting, pulling. It wasn’t working. And Sayid, having quickly gotten over the shock of being sacked, was writhing now beneath Sawyer. Writhing and kicking and impossible to hold down. In a flash, he kneed Sawyer in the groin, punched him hard in the stomach and then rolled smack into Jack, his shoulder connecting with Jack’s jaw a split-second before he got back to his feet.
The gun was aimed at Sawyer now. Sawyer, who was still on the ground with big round eyes trying to catch his breath.
Another shot rang out just as Jack jerked Sayid’s arm upwards, again grasping for the gun. Sawyer felt the hot air move around him, knew it hadn’t missed him by much. He got to his feet, swaying slightly for a moment, still feeling that schoolyard-tussle sensation of having just had the wind knocked out of him. The gun went off again, this time firing into the jungle as Jack jerked Sayid to the left, still unable to even loosen the man’s grip.
Sawyer started towards them, wanting to help Jack, but paused when he caught sight of Sayid’s face for the first time. Somewhere beneath the frantic anger and the confusion and the fear and the determination, none of which he knew were really Sayid, there was something else that was Sayid. A sad, regretful look deep in the other man’s eyes, even now as he struggled with Jack, elbowing him in the ribs. Jack let go and Sayid kicked him in the side, and then Sawyer jumped in again, and again brought Sayid to the ground, really pinning him this time, knees digging into his thighs and a forearm pressing into his neck, the other arm, unfortunately his bad arm, trying desperately to rip the gun out of his grip.
“Get a rock!” he yelled to Jack. “Something hard!”
Jack was already off running when Sayid’s free hand connected with Sawyer’s mouth, driving his lower lip hard into his teeth, red on his knuckles when he swung again and missed this time, Sawyer spitting blood but not moving an inch. There was something like a plea now in Sayid’s eyes, looking right up at Sawyer, seemingly unaware of his movements as he grabbed a handful of Sawyer’s hair and yanked hard, Sawyer slipping slightly as for a moment his vision dissolved into a million black stars.
Then Jack was back with a rock like the size of a bowling ball, and Sawyer pinned down Sayid’s free hand as Jack took over gun duty, keeping Sayid’s arm down with a knee as if he were preparing to saw a piece of wood. His disgust was obvious as he smashed the rock down repeatedly on Sayid’s fingers, but the other man’s iron grip didn’t loosen any as his knuckles grew bloody and torn. A strangled grunting sound escaped his throat as Jack brought the rock down on Sayid’s wrist this time with a sickening crunch.
“Oh, God,” Jack said, looking nauseated.
But Sayid’s fingers went slack and Jack grabbed the gun, getting to his feet. He aimed it at Sayid, his hands steady. Sawyer scrambled to his feet and got himself out of the line of fire, but not too far in case Sayid tried anything.
“Now,” Jack said. “We’re going to go back to camp and settle this there. You can either come with us willingly, or we can drag you back between us. Your choice.”
“Jack,” Sawyer said quickly, his eyes flashing to Sayid’s now apparently docile form, still prone on the ground. If Jack couldn’t see what he could see, then maybe he was the crazy one after all. All he knew was that if he’d been the one holding the gun, there would have been no choice.
Jack gave Sawyer an adrenaline-charged look that said, Don’t worry, I have a gun.
Sawyer was still worried, and let it plainly show on his face. A moment later, as Jack’s feet were knocked out from under him with a sweep of Sayid’s legs, he felt he’d been fairly justified. Then, just as suddenly, he was jerked back and a blade pressed to his throat. A knife. Goddammit, he should have known.
He swallowed, the movement causing an uncomfortable shift of the cold metal against his skin. Jack, having gotten to his feet again, pointed the gun at both of them, looking unsure of what to do.
“Well, ain’t this familiar?” Sawyer said, just to say something.
Sayid was strangely calm after the heat of their struggle.
“How many more are hiding in the trees, Jack?”
“None,” Jack said quickly, but Sayid pressed the flat of the knife blade hard against Sawyer’s neck, and he felt the point pierce his skin, a thin stream of blood almost immediately dribbling down into his shirt.
“How many?” Sayid repeated.
Jack stared at Sawyer, watching the blood colour the front of his grey button-down shirt. Sawyer summoned his imaginary ESP powers again, not wanting to risk moving anything but his eyes as he caught Jack’s gaze and held it, thinking, This is not Sayid, and not-Sayid means business. Use the gun. Use the gun, use the gun, use the gun, Jack.
This time it worked. Instantly, Jack understood, but there was still the problem of him being in front of Sayid. Jack’s eyes went from Sawyer’s face to Sayid’s and back again.
“None, I swear,” he said quickly, the words sounding false.
And like that, Sawyer understood that there was suddenly a plan. So when Jack turned to his left and shouted, “Hurley! Michael! NOW!” into thin air, he took the opportunity to bite his captor’s wrist, remembering the sharp crack of the rock against it just minutes earlier. Sayid howled in pain and lowered the knife as he turned around, expecting an ambush. Sawyer dove out of the way. Then the gun went off, and Sayid was on the ground again, holding his thigh, blood spreading alarmingly fast through his thick canvas trousers. He was looking up at them both like a wounded animal. Hell, he was a wounded animal.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Jack said.
They both just stood over him for a minute. Sawyer spat out another mouthful of blood.
Then Jack tucked the gun into his waistband and started towards him, unfastening his belt.
“I hope you’re planning on tying him up with that,” Sawyer said. Damned if he was getting anywhere near the guy again. He rubbed at his neck and watched as Jack knelt down, tightening the belt around Sayid’s injured thigh.
“Jack…” he said, but there was no reaction. “Jack.”
Jack glanced up at him, looking shell-shocked.
“Well, I’m tying this crazy fucker up,” Sawyer growled, taking off his shirt and ripping it cleanly in half along one of the back seams. Against his better judgement, he knelt behind Sayid and began binding his hands together, using one of his sleeves. At least he made sure the knife was far out of reach before even getting close, locating it about seven feet to their right, in a rougher patch near the edge of the clearing.
Sayid said nothing, suddenly as gentle as a kitten.
“He’s burning up,” Jack said. “I think this might be some sort of a virus.”
“You think what now?” Sawyer said, all the urgency in his voice replaced with an almost comical bewilderment.
For some reason, Sayid’s silence was more frightening to him than his accusing words to Jack had been. And Jack was right. He could feel an unnatural heat emanating from Sayid’s skin as he twisted the cloth into a workable rope and began to tie it into a knot.
“Didn’t he say that Rousseau told him about an illness? One that infected her entire team?”
“Yeah, he also said she killed all of ‘em. She’s not exactly up for sane person of the year, 1989.”
“Christ,” Jack said.
Sawyer was doubling the knot when it happened. Sayid’s arm shot up out of the bindings and hit him right in the Adam’s apple.
He fell backwards, gasping for breath, his vision going dark. His grip on consciousness loosened. Oh, yeah, he thought, a weird drifting feeling overtaking him as he fought to return to light and the real world. Those self-defence instructors always tell you to go for the Adam’s apple. Solar plexus, groin, Adam’s apple, eyes. He had a brief flash of chicks in blue spandex shorts and sports bras pretending to break each other’s noses and shrieking, “No! No! No! No! No!” Always carry a whistle. What to do when you think you’re being followed. Sawyer must have seen a late-night TV special on it or something, because it was all coming back to him now in a flood of intense pain. But pain was good, he reminded himself. Pain meant coming back to what was going on, to Jack and Sayid and whatever the thing was that was inside Sayid right now.
He opened his eyes, saw cloudless blue sky and then he heard a strange sputtering sound and straightened, looking around. And immediately sprang to his feet.
They’d somehow traveled quite a few yards away. Sawyer didn’t know how long he’d been out of commission, but there was a fresh welt over Jack’s eye, and Sayid looked worse for wear as well, if that was possible. At the moment, Jack was lying on the ground, struggling weakly while Sayid squeezed his neck. Hard, with both hands. It was impossible to tell how long this had been going on, but the loose flailing of Jack’s arms was not a good sign.
Sawyer didn’t allow himself time to think, just rushed over to the rough patch of grass where he’d last seen the knife, running his hands along the ground, and whispered a prayer to whoever was listening that he would be able to find it, that it would still be there.
“Please, please, please.”
It was. When he turned back to the other two, Jack had stopped struggling altogether. He was still making the sputtering sound, but his eyes were starting to roll back into his head, and his face was an alarming shade of bluish grey.
Still clutching the knife, Sawyer ran across the clearing and let his momentum drive him hard into Sayid, knocking him off Jack’s now unconscious form. He grabbed Sayid’s arm hard as they rolled four or five times, the back of his head smacking into the ground at one point, his freshly healed shoulder complaining harshly when his weight shifted onto it. They came to a stop with Sawyer on top and he was the one who brought the knife to Sayid’s throat this time.
“You so much as breathe wrong…” he threatened, leaving the consequence to the imagination.
Sayid was immobile except for the harsh in and out of his breath. In his eyes, something wild seemed to stir, full of venom. Something entirely inhuman. And still that far away look of apology, as if Sayid was still struggling to break through the surface somehow. To regain control.
And then, for an instant, it seemed as though he’d succeeded.
“Sayid?” Sawyer said breathlessly, searching the other man’s face. He could probably count on one hand the number of times he’d used the man’s real name. They stared at each other in silence, immobile.
“I’m sorry,” Sayid said, and then his dark eyes, having cleared for a moment, grew more distant. “Tell them…”
Then he grabbed Sawyer by the shoulders and rolled them both over. Sawyer felt the flood of warmth before he realized it was blood, and let the thought that this was it, finally, this was how he was going to die, overtake him before he realized it wasn’t his.
“Oh, fuck. Oh. Jack!”
There was an indescribable liquid noise coming from somewhere inside Sayid. He let go of the knife handle, and watched in horror as it stayed where it was, embedded deep in Sayid’s throat. Or what used to be Sayid’s throat, now mostly nonexistent. He tried to wriggle away, anything to get away from the sight of this, from the blood that still poured out hot and sticky and alive, but he was pinned, either by shock or by the sudden dead weight. He couldn’t tell.
He could hear Jack gasping for air a few feet away. Might as well have been miles.
Sayid stared down at him intently, and for a moment, he seemed free of the presence that Sawyer had been watching him wrestle with all day, finally free and peaceful. Relieved. And then even that had gone and Sawyer knew.
He knew that Sayid was dead.